“A cask of jellied newts’ eyes, a pinch of stardust, and a bottle of whiskey,” said Eric as we left the store.
“Do you really need all this stuff to summon a demon?” I asked him.
“Technically you don’t need the whiskey, but they’re always more likely to show up if you sprinkle some whiskey in the circle,” he replied.
“I see. And once you’ve sprinkled the few drops of whiskey in the circle…?”
“Oh, yeah, I drink the rest. There’s no reason to try and summon a demon while sober.”
“Can we get back to the issue of where exactly you expect me to be while you’re dead drunk, summoning a demon that can only be contained through pure willpower?” I asked.
“I need you in the secondary pentacle,” he said.
“I don’t think you’re capable of comprehending how much I hate you right now.”
“I need you there, dude; a demon of this magnitude requires an absolute minimum of two pentacles. Probably three, actually, but you’re my only friend,” he said.
“Lucky me,” I said.
“Now come on, get in, you’re driving,” Eric said as we approached the car.
“Wait, I have to drive too?”
“Duh, I’m starting on the whiskey.”
“Tell me again why we’re summoning a demon?” I asked.
“Look, we’ve been over this. It’s nothing to be worried about,” Eric said. “We’re just summoning a weird little third class demon. She’s a pig’s body with a woman’s head and spider legs. Nothing too scary.”
“Yeah, see, but that doesn’t answer my question. Why are we summoning a demon?” I repeated
Eric briefly hesitated, and then said, “I lost a bet, okay.”
“You? Lost a bet? I’m in shock,” I said.
“Oh good,” Eric replied, “sarcasm.”
“Please tell me that the bet wasn’t with Salia.”
“What do you have against Salia?” Eric asked. “He’s a perfectly good guy! I mean, he’s a little disreputable, sure, but he’s honest. I trust him way more than most of the groupies that follow me around!”
“Salia wants to summon a race of demon snakes to devour the human race,” I replied.
“Oh, so you’re against him because of his religion, then? Real mature. You’re living in the big city now, John; you have to be more accepting of people,” Eric said. “Turn left here, this is the place.”
Moonlight illuminated the desolate parking lot as Eric began to chant. The great rings around the two pentacles flashed, their eldritch symbols glowing bright and shining through the white smoke that rose from the central circle. I felt a wave of power flow through me as the being in the circle tested its boundaries. Normally when the demons test their bounds it’s like being out in a light drizzle, uncomfortable but not exactly scary. When this thing pushed against its bounds it felt like I was drowning.
A dark shadow rose from within the smoke, standing so tall as to block out most of the moonlight. As it stepped forward toward the edge of the circle I could see that it was a twelve-foot-tall man with a bear’s head, and a hideous face in its chest. It looked at me and let out a horrific roar from both mouths. Then it tore open the summoning circle and charged off into the night.
“Well, that went well,” I said.
“I thought so,” Eric replied cheerfully.
“I was being sarcastic.”
“Do you mind explaining what you just summoned and why you lied to me about it?”
“I lied because I knew you’d react like this — look, it’s not that big of a deal. He goes by Ptzchial, and he’s only a class two.”
“Only a class two? Are you insane? The last time a class two demon got loose, half a city was slaughtered!” I yelled.
“I’ve got it under control,” he said, striding purposefully toward the car.
“Where the hell are you going?” I yelled at him.
“I was planning on hunting down the demon and then either killing or banishing him,” he called back over his shoulder.
“And that’s going to be simple, is it? We don’t have a clue where he’s going!” I shouted, chasing after him.
“He has a taste for babies,” Eric said. “He’ll be headed to the maternity ward in the hospital. Highest number of babies per square meter in the city.”
“If any babies die because of you, I’ll feed you to Salia’s snakes,” I said, getting in the driver’s seat.
“Fair enough,” Eric replied. “Hospital?”
“So is he dead?” I asked.
“I’m not sure. I didn’t expect him to burst into flames like that,” Eric replied.
“You didn’t expect that?” I said. “What was that spell with the salt and the chanting supposed to do?”
Eric let out a laugh. “As if I know. Look, the translation’s pretty vague. I was pretty sure that he wouldn’t enjoy it much,” he said.
I shook my head and asked, “So how does this affect your bet?”
“Well, I actually kind of lied a little bit. Summoning the demon kind of was the bet. I bet Salia I could banish him after drinking a full mickey.”
“Wait, so when you told me you sobered yourself up…”
“Yeah, that was kind of a lie too. Sorry. But hey, on the bright side, Salia won’t feed any more virgins to that enormous python he has.” Eric grinned at me.
“I’m actually amazed to learn that this was for a good cause,” I said.
Eric smiled sheepishly. “Actually, Salia just bet me that I couldn’t do it. The not sacrificing virgins thing was just to raise the stakes a little.”
I sighed. “I think the council can stop agonizing over the translation of that prophecy. You’re definitely going to destroy the world, not save it.”
“Yeah,” said Eric, resignedly. “You’re probably right.”
Alex Johnston is a young paleontology student/aspiring writer of fantastical things. Enjoys long walks on the beach, which is tragic because he lives far from any body of water with a beach large enough for a long walk.
This story is sponsored by
Clarion West Writers Workshop — Apply now through March 1 for 2014’s six-week workshop with Paul Park, Kij Johnson, Ian McDonald, Hiromi Goto, Charlie Jane Anders, and John Crowley, June 22 – August 1 in Seattle.